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servicing my internal revenue   
09 February 2005
  My form 1040EZ had one foot out the door on sunday when I suddenly learned from my mother that, for the first time ever, she had not claimed me as a dependent on her tax forms. This meant that if I wanted to, I could redo my taxes, claim another deduction and get a credit for the tuition I paid last year. Which is to say, in non-nerd speak, *cha-ching*!
I went to the library to pick up form 1040A, because I don't have the internets in my apartment and when it comes to getting more money, I'm not really all that patient. Form 1040A looked fairly non-threating, insomuch as a tax form can look non-threatening, and its instruction booklet seemed to be about the same thickness as the other forms'. It beckoned to me with a twinkle in its eye and the promise of fast, easy money. Sure, its name didn't end in "EZ", but that other form was a cakewalk anyway - it's not like this one was called "Form 1040MINDFUCK" or anything. I grabbed every form and instruction set I thought I could possibly need and made my way home.
Form 1040A began giving me trouble almost as soon as I got through the door. Now I know that I don't have any dependent children. Right? I would know if I had a child, wouldn't I? 1040A wasn't convinced. "Are you sure," it cooed, "that you don't have any dependents? Tax fraud is a serious crime, you know." No! No children! I'm childless and single. no, married. no, married but filing separately. no, single. there. box 1 completed. Now onto income. It's just my wages and the interest on my savings account (yeah, that whopping $6.09 that was so insignificant they wouldn't even waste a stamp on sending me the records) and my...illegal gambling ring that I run out of a houseboat in the Caribbean?!? Wait, that was just a dream. But what about capital gain distributions, IRA distributions, pensions, annuities? I don't get social security benefits, right? that's for old people. And are my dividends ordinary or qualified? I like to think qualified, but is that really any of their business? Maybe I should just move on to part 2 - Adjusted Gross Income.
Now, if there's one thing I learned from this whole experience, it's that the IRS strives for truth in advertising. There's a reason Form 1040A doesn't have an "EZ" in its name, and there's a reason this section was called "Gross". Lines 16 through 19 listed various deductions I could take, each with a corresponding worksheet that was only slightly more complex than a Mark Lombardi drawing. Not to mention the fact that every time I needed a worksheet it seemed to be at the bottom of the 3" stack of forms I had brought home from the library. The worksheets kept referring me back to Form 1040A, which then referred me to the worksheets...I was beginning to get dizzy. And frustrated. And I wished I had grabbed a few extra copies of Form 1040A, cause I don't know if the IRS appreciates me scribbling out the first value I entered and trying to cram the correct value in above it. Although I did add an "oops! :P" for good measure.
I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Form 1040A was unsolvable. And the IRS is really watching everyone trying to fill these things out, chewing their pencils and cursing the 16th amendment, and when you get the point where you're so exasperated that you're not even worried about pulling your hair out anymore, you're worried that the clump of hair you have in your hand isn't big enough to satisfy your rage, and you'll do anything not to have to decipher a flow chart that looks like the SATs on crack ever again - this is when they knock on your door and inform you that taxes are for suckers and really all you have to do is sign here to endorse "Tha George W. Prezident 4 Lyfe Amendment to end all Amendments" (with the provision of course that you will not publicly question the decisions of the president, even when he wants to go to war but doesn't seem to have a reason to, and even when he is just blatantly making things up, like that he saw John Kerry eating a baby in a public bathroom stall with George Michael) and you'll never have to file, or pay, taxes again.
Oh yeah, and there's a confidentiality agreement, too - that's how come no one's ever heard of it.
      ...1 time on the ceiling if you want me | knock
"still" "here"   
03 December 2004
  Did you know that there are some people who actually update their journals every day??? This is inconceivable to me. Every single day, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, these people have at least one experience that is interesting enough to warrant a journal entry. I, on the other hand, am just shy of a month-long dry spell of excitement. No, really. You have no idea how lucky you are that I don't try to write every day. And just to prove it...

Went to work. I stayed late trying to get the website ready for the server switch. Walked home in total darkness. It was 6:30 p.m. Stupid solstice.
Was so hungry when I got home that snacked on some chips and salsa while trying to decide what to make for dinner. One Simpsons episode, half a bag of chips and most of the jar of salsa later, I realized the chips and salsa had become my dinner. I guess that would make it time for dessert. I couldn't decide whether I wanted the cake my mom had sent me or the holiday m&ms I had, so I sampled both. You can probably guess where that got me.
Bloatedly stumbled to orchestra rehearsal. We made some cuts in the dissonant Russian piece we're playing. Extremely, extremely bad parts were taken out, leaving only extremely bad parts. Sight-read fourth movement, which we'll be playing at our concert...a week from tomorrow. Don't worry; we still have one more rehearsal between now and then.

Tuesday: What happened on Tuesday?!? I gotta know!Collapse )
      ...1 time on the ceiling if you want me | knock
sleeping like a logroller   
08 November 2004
  Yes, the world does go on post-election, and no, I'm not really as unhappy as it probably seems (or maybe I am, but I can't scapegoat politics entirely). And just to prove it, here's another one of those pointless anecdotes which prove that I can make a fool of myself in just about any situation:

On Saturday night, bored, depressed and desperately in need of a long sleep (like, say, until sometime Monday afternoon), I decided to try wearing one of those sleeping masks they give you for free on airplanes. I know what you're thinking, but for some reason it looked cool when Carrie Bradshaw did it. Anyway, it must have had the desired effect of putting me into a deep and dream-filled sleep because I nodded off around one and awoke to pitch blackness and the sensation that I had slept for days. Unfortunately, the darkness was due to the fact that it was only two a.m. and my temporal confusion can only be attributed to the multitude of vivid dreams I remembered having, all of which revolved around me panicking about losing my sleeping mask. Turns out I had finally awoken with a start when my dream self tore off her sleeping mask and threw it across the room. Startled and maskless, I felt up my covers and groped my way around the vicinity of my bed, trying to reclaim what I considered my only hope for making it to Monday, but the mask was nowhere to be found. Finally I flipped on the lights and there it was, down for the count, crumpled and cowering in the corner. Determined not to allow something as petty as the rotation of the Earth interfere with my quest for a brief coma, I readjusted the mask, did some alternate-nostril breathing (hey, it always makes me fall asleep in yoga class) and drifted off.
Read on...Collapse )
      ...2 times on the ceiling if you want me | knock
a little bit of history repeating   
05 November 2004
  honestly, I will shut up about the election soon, but my friend sent me this e-mail and I just had to pass it along.

Shakespeare on the election

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in
order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor,
for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both
emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind . .
And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch
and the blood boils with hate and the mind has
closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of
the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear
and blinded with patriotism, will offer up all of their
rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know?
For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."
      ...1 time on the ceiling if you want me | knock
where to start?   
04 November 2004
  I don't really know what to say, but I'm going to try anyway, because it seems like everywhere I look there are people saying, "it's not that bad," or, "oh well, we knew Kerry would probably lose," but nobody seems to be speaking to the way I really feel, which is, "it's so much worse than I thought."
It's not so much Bush's re-election that bothers me as the fact that more people voted for him than voted for John Kerry, and yes, I know how illogical that sounds. But I resigned myself long ago to 4 more years of Bush - after the stunt he pulled in 2000, I suspected he would probably use any means necessary to keep himself in office. The real punch in the stomach is that he didn't have to. After four years of imperialism abroad and intolerance at home, Americans turned out en masse to say, "please, sir, we want some more." And more they had - not satisfied with filling the White House with social hyper-conservatism and religious ideology, they filled the House, the Senate, the State capitols, and then topped it all off with a nice big helping of "fuck you, gays." Bush moved himself as far right on the political spectrum as he could feasibly go, and then when he told the world, "you're either with us or against us," rather than say, "well, then I'm against you," a whole lot of Americans just decided to pick up and move with him. And as millions of people justified their vote Tuesday with, "Bush just speaks more to my values," it hurt to realize that the people of this country value the lives of the unborn over those of the already living, and the words of the Bible over its teachings.

(So to answer your question, MK, yes, I'm still here, and I'll be o.k....eventually.)
stamp out the vote!   
02 November 2004
  Now that I've said my piece for voting, I need to get something off my chest.
What kind of a democracy do we live in?!? Purporting to lead to the way to worldwide democracy by both example and force, our own grip on rule "of the people, by the people and for the people" seems to be rapidly loosening. We cast our votes for president every four years, on the first Tuesday in November - this is unchanging and unsurprising, and therefore botched elections on the grounds of insufficient preparation are simply inexcusable. Every single eligible voter should be registered to vote, able to vote, and should find voting to be simple and convenient. Before the money-pits of slanderous political ads, million-dollar rallies and brash conventions, our number one priority should be ensuring that every citizen's voice is heard on election day. In May, India held an all-electronic vote in which 380 million Indians cast their votes, and while the election was not perfect, it was enough of an improvement over our own system that the Indian government has offered to advise the United States for the 2008 election. The voting machines were standardized, designed for easy use (even by those who couldn't read), and cost $200 each, as compared to the $3000 per machine spent in Florida, a state which has now basically resigned itself to an inaccurate vote count. Which begs the question, why do we even have separate ballots for each state? After the egg on our face that was Katherine Harris, the hanging chad and Bush v. Gore, doesn't it seem intuitive to design a uniform voting system (so that at least if we fuck up, we all fuck up), rather that risk having to assign the tie-breaker electoral votes based on the decision of no one from that state? And why have we made voting such a pain in the ass? Countless canvassers have talked themselves hoarse trying to get out the vote, all in an effort to counteract the completely natural inclination not to want to jump through hoops or stand in line for hours just to cast a single vote. Not to sound cliché, but we can put a man on the moon, and yet simple, accurate elections seem as infeasible as ending plate tectonics.
But what really got this rant started was the flagrant attempts at disenfranchisement I'm seeing all around me these days. Like the accepted way to win an election is no longer to convince the greatest number of people to vote for you, but to suppress as the greatest number of those who would vote against you. Here at the University of Wisconsin, the College Republicans "accidentally" sent out a flier to students informing them that they could vote at any polling place in the city, which isn't true. But how many (mostly democratic) college students, after walking in the rain to a polling place, waiting in line for an hour, and then learning that they were in the wrong place and had to find the correct polling place, walk there and wait in line again, might decide that it's just not worth it? 537? Enough to swing Wisconsin? That's all that matters in the end.
90 miles east, in traditionally-Democratic Milwaukee, after the original plan to suppress the vote by printing too few ballots (fewer even than were printed for the 2000 election) was overridden by an order from the governor, a flier was distributed in black neighborhoods (yes, we really do mean black neighborhoods - Milwaukee is consistently one of the most segregated cities in the nation) claiming to come from the non-existent Black Voters League. This flier kindly informed residents that, "if you've already voted in any election this year, you can't vote in the presidential election", and that people with outstanding parking tickets or overdue rent also could not vote, a notion hammered home with, "if you break any of these laws, you can get ten years in prison and your children will get taken away from you." In fact, Milwaukee Republicans seem to be having a lot of trouble with the concept of democracy these days. Republican County Election Commissioner Doug Haag (who is also the chair of the Republican Party of Milwaukee County), commented, "Why is there this need to get all these people registered? If people want to vote, they will vote. If they want to stay in bed and not vote, they don't have to bother." Looks like voter disenfranchisement is just the latest in a long line of tacky trends to come out of Florida.
i know i don't need to say this, but....   
02 November 2004


ok, now that being said, DO NOT VOTE FOR GEORGE W. BUSH.
seriously, people.
and now, let's let someone else complain for a change   
27 October 2004
  Slate released its writers' endorsements today - 45 Kerry, 4 Bush, and then a couple of those other guys, which would be a lot more heartening if not for the fact that Slate is undeniably liberal and in 2000 went with 29 Gore, 4 Bush - so I thought that, rather than inflict you with another of my more-emotional-than-articulate diatribes, I would let someone who actually knows how to compose their thoughts into convictive sentences do the ranting. Here's some bits of what they had to say:

Chris Suellentrop: I was ambivalent about the Iraq war before the invasion, and I ultimately decided that if you're ambivalent about war you should be against it. The president and this administration apparently feel otherwise. They've put the burden of proof on peace rather than war.

Kevin Arnovitz: Watching the president of the United States, the one person in our country whose endorsement can legitimate any initiative, use gay people as a political chew-toy to advance some kind of theological agenda has been the most infuriating and surreal political experience of my citizen life. The president's willingness to turn on a group of Americans demonstrates to me an unthinking disrespect for two of his favorite virtues - freedom and liberty.

Phillip Carter: When you mislead the country about our reasons for war in Iraq, and then fail to plan effectively for military and strategic victory, you simply don't get to keep your job.

Daniel Drezner: As a Republican, I remain completely unconvinced that Kerry understands the limits of multilateral diplomacy. As a social scientist, however, I can't vote for a president with this track record on foreign policy who doesn't believe that what he believes about international relations might, just might, be wrong.

Jon Katz: I felt that President Bush - who responded bravely and well to 9/11, I thought - appeared to now be incapable of moderating or altering his views, admitting error, acknowledging dissenters, or engaging in a real conversation or debate. He also seems to me to be mixing politics and religion, in this case talking to God rather than listening to advisers, foreign leaders, or voters. This is a serious flaw in a U.S. president, especially during a war.

Dahlia Lithwick: President Bush seems to have lost sight of the fact that what makes Americans both strong and free is the rule of law; not the rule of the president. Yet this administration has tended to treat both international and constitutional law as a set of polite suggestions to be ignored (at the best of times) and as an impediment to his policy goals (at the worst).

Timothy Noah: Iraq may yet end up better off than it was under Saddam Hussein. But it isn't better off now, and that's largely the fault of President Bush's perverse refusal to plan for a postwar occupation. Anyway, the question really shouldn't be, "Is Iraq better off?" It should be "Are we better off?" I think the answer is pretty clearly, "no."

David Plotz: The Bush administration has suppressed inconvenient facts, sabotaged American science, undone a decade of fiscal restraint by spending profligately and giving tax breaks to all the wrong people, rolled over for the worst crony capitalists and lobbyists, and squandered America's moral (and actual) authority in the world.

Dana Stevens: Like Al Gore, [Kerry] comes off as a stiff, pompous policy wonk, but I actually kind of like that in a candidate - it shows that they actually like sitting down and thinking about all the boring stuff you need to know in order to run a country. Since when did the job of president stop requiring a résumé?

Louisa Herron Thomas: Strength isn't defined by stubbornness; it's the willingness to hold people — and oneself — accountable. It's a lesson that Kerry seems to understand, and that Bush refuses to learn.

Jacob Weisberg: Kerry's failings are minuscule when weighed against the massive damage to America's standing in the world, our economic future, and our civic institutions that would likely result from a second Bush term.

And perhaps most succinctly...

Charlie Powell: George Bush is a disgrace, and why anyone would decide to vote for him is beyond me.
only 8 more days of bitter tirades...i hope   
25 October 2004
  oh for crying out loud!
i'm sure i've ranted before about the absurdity of the fact that both Bush's failures and 'successes' (what those might be i haven't quite figured out yet) are offered up as proof of his unquestionable competence, but this circular and indisputable argument (in that whatever you say is rewoven as agreement with him) seems to have balooned to the point of self-parody.
the chicago tribune printed its less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Bush a week ago yesterday, editorializing that terrorism was the number one concern facing our country and, despite his shortcomings, Bush was the best man to protect us. they essentially mimicked the fear-peddling tactics of Dick Cheney, offering nothing more than a halloweenish "vote Bush, or else..." as support for their choice.
i completely agree that we have reason to be afraid - the IAEA reported today that nearly 350 tons of explosives have "gone missing" in Iraq, the icing on a week whose highlights included the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan and massacre of 50-some Iraqi army recruits - but hasn't it become blatantly obvious by now that we should fear Bush's leadership as much as anything? the tribune will point to these events as proof that now, more than ever, the chaos necessitates Bush's decisive pilotage, but the fact is that we had no reason to go into Iraq in the first place, and these events are a direct result of Bush's faulty resolution towards a pipe(line) dream. this is profoundly sad. time after time, the sole argument posed for voting for Bush is that he will better protect us against terrorism, and yet i would guess that he has created more terrorism than he has destroyed in the last 4 years. the most planning Bush seems to have done in this war was his decision to don a flight suit and pose with his "mission accomplished" banner.
to back Bush is one thing, but to do so on the grounds that the world is an unsafe place is inexcusable. this is like seeking out Phillip-Morris to treat lung cancer...maybe it's time we quit smoking.
      ...3 times on the ceiling if you want me | knock
I heard there's some rumors on the, uh...internets   
13 October 2004
  O.k., I know this is probably yesterday's news by now, but what can I say, I've been busy. I had to get it out today, though, before they have the next debate and I have a whole new slew of things to complain about.
Anyway, overall, I quite enjoyed watching last Friday's debate, probably because I was in a room with about 100 mostly-liberal and mostly-drunk twenty-somethings with no qualms whatsoever about laughing and/or screaming at the screen whenever the urge grabbed them. And also probably because Bush got served (again), but that's just my opinion. As was to be expected, though, I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know - both candidates can toss empty promises around like hot potatoes and Bush has never made a single mistake (oh wait, actually, to use his own words, "that's news to me!" And, btw, he does own part of a timber company, but I digress...).
Anyway, the comment which caught me really off-guard, which transcended the usual blatant dishonesty and infuriating arrogance to the point where my eyes just bugged out of my head, was when Bush was asked what he would look for in a possible Supreme Court nominee. "Well," he chortled, "I'd want someone who would vote for me." WHAT?!?! Was this some sort of joke? Because I didn't find it very funny. Was he basically admitting that he stole the election four years ago, or is he really so clueless that he doesn't realize that the Supreme Court is not supposed to pick the president? Or, more frighteningly, was he predicting what's to come in this fall's election? Hey, it worked so well last time, why not just amend the constitution and have the 9 justices alone vote for who they'd like to see in office? It'll save the trouble of having to make up a reason not to let blacks vote. Well, non-Clarence-Thomas (read: reactionary) blacks, at least. Why was I the only person in the room who seemed bothered by this?
      ...1 time on the ceiling if you want me | knock